Once there was nothing.
No time. No now, no then. No was, no will be. No yesterday, no tomorrow.
No space. No length, no width, no height. No up, no down, no left, no right.
No light; but no darkness either.
But there was someone. Or someones, depending on how you count. There were three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—in perfect harmony and at perfect peace, as One God. They—He—were/was not lonely; they—He—needed nothing.
There was God.
And there was all that God is. There was holiness; there was truth; there was goodness; and there was love.
For His own reasons—which are all the reasons there were—God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was unformed and unfilled, and covered with a new thing called darkness. And the Spirit, like a mother hen, nestled over the dark surface of the earth, covering, embracing, enfolding.
And then, following the Father’s plan, the Son spoke.
“Let there be light.”
And there was light.
And over the next six days—there were days, and thus time, because there was light—the Son spoke again, and again. And every time He spoke, His words—His commandments—came to pass. The earth, unformed, began to take form. And the earth, unfilled, began to be filled, with life.
And on the sixth day, the Son stopped speaking. He arose from His chair, so to speak, and He stepped into what He had spoken into existence. He knelt in the red clay outside Eden, and with His hands, he began to work.
This time, unlike the other times, He was taking some time. His hands moved skillfully, purposefully, perfectly; and soon there was, lying on the ground in front of Him, the very image of Himself: a body just like the one He had temporarily assumed. Except—it was red, but not yet pink; it was lifeless. Still kneeling, the Son crouched over the lifeless body, placed His mouth on its ashen mouth, and breathed into it.
And man became a living soul. Adam—“Red”—pinked up. The image of God lived.
And then, something even more remarkable happened. The Son—God Himself—spoke to His image. He began to tell him things, about who He was, about what He liked and didn’t like. He offered Adam a chance to know Him. From the very beginning, God wanted to talk to His creature.
Then the Son fashioned a wife for Adam, also in God’s image, but different from Adam in ways that made him better, more complete. And He told her about Himself too. He offered them both Himself.
We all know what happened next. After Eve was deceived, Adam knowingly rejected God’s offer of fellowship and plunged all that God had made into chaos and death. And though God expelled them from the Garden, He kept talking to them and to their descendants.
He spoke in an audible voice. He spoke in dreams and visions. He spoke through dew on a fleece, and through a bush that burned but wouldn’t burn up. Once he even spoke through a donkey.
And along the way, even though He was communicating already in all these ways, He went even further. He began to see that the things He spoke were written down, so that more people could read His words than heard Him speak them.
And the story He told had a single theme, in three parts. In the first part, called the Torah, God gave His people priests and sacrifices to wash away their sin and bring them back into fellowship with Him. But the sacrifices had to be made every day, twice a day. And there were other sacrifices: sin offerings, guilt offerings, trespass offerings, peace offerings, heave offerings, wave offerings. Why wasn’t there a priest who could offer a complete sacrifice—who could get the job done, and wash away our sins once forever?
In the second part, called the Prophets, God spoke to His people through special spokesmen. There were many of them, and they spoke faithfully. But they, too, had a problem: sometimes they couldn’t understand their own messages, and sometimes they couldn’t describe what they saw in words that made sense to us. They spoke of wheels within wheels, and of a man who made his grave with both the wicked and the rich; they spoke of little horns and abominations of desolation, and it was often deeply confusing. Why wasn’t there a prophet who could speak clearly—who could tell us, in words we could understand, what God is like, and what He wants from us?
In the third part, called the Writings, God gave His people kings to fight their battles for them. The first king was tall and handsome, and everyone liked him. But he was a real disappointment. So God picked a king for them, a young man with a soldier’s skill and courage and a musician’s tender heart. And for much of his reign he was joyously good; but in the end he fell into sin and descended his family into the same kinds of chaos that Adam had brought on us all from the beginning. The next king, his son Solomon, began well, but by the end of his life he was worshipping idols even after he had built a magnificent temple for the true God. And then the kingdom split, and while a few kings glimmered with hope and light, most of them just descended deeper and deeper into darkness. Why wasn’t there a king who could rule us well—who wouldn’t disappoint us?
And so God’s Word to Israel, the Tanakh, ends, leaving us craving what we need from God, but unsatisfied. We need a priest. We need a prophet. We need a king. Even just one of them would be a blessing.
The story continues next time.
Part 2: Utter Satisfaction, Utter Joy
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash